The CATalyst: Loews Hotels Answers Feral Cat Mistreatment Questions

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

Here is the verbatim exchange between me and a Loews Hotel representative on Loews’ feral cat treatment. After each question and answer, I’ve included my own commentary. (Click here for the full story on Loews’ response to its feral cat treatment.)

S. D.: It is NEVER protocol not to feed cats. Why have you instructed your employees to not feed?

Loews: As we work to relocate the cats, it is important to feed only in certain locations and only by the company that is assisting in this process. In addition, leaving food outdoors attracts other feral and wild animals, which creates health and safety issues.
My comment: This still doesn’t really answer the question. The hotel had feeders that worked; they were minimally used by wildlife. You seem to suggest feeding is going on at “certain locations.” That is in direct contradiction to my understanding that these cats are not being fed.

S. D.: Are you attempting to starve these cats to death?

Loews: No. (See above.)

S.D.: What’s more if employees are caught (and there are security guards watching for this according to my sources), they will potentially be fired. How can in good conscience employees be asked to avoid their own good conscience? This sounds too outlandish to possibly be true. I have photos and have seen memos.
Loews: The animal handling and feeding policy is intended to reduce the chance of injury to our guests, team members and tenants and to avoid potential health hazards.

My comment: Perhaps this was my fault for not being clear. I never suggested that employees feed the cats by hand. I am asking why feeders aren’t any longer being used. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, this is where email alone fails. Or maybe it’s clear what I mean – and you have no real answer.

All experts confirm to take away food from cats being previously supplemented – may cause the cats to starve to death. Also, while dogs or people can survive without food for a few days, cats may develop a fatty liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. If your trappers don’t know this, they should.
S. D.: You repeatedly have written (in internal memos and media releases) about safety and health concerns relative to the cats being there. What are those exactly? And why are your properties more at risk than others (likely including others operated by Loews) which have feral cats and deal with the situation in a humane manner?

Loews: Experts have advised us of a myriad of health hazards involving feral,
free-roaming animals.

My comment: Is it my imagination, or have you still not answered what exactly these “health concerns” are. And why and how these properties are so different than others who deal with feral cats in a far humane manner?

S. D.: I know for a fact that Alley Cat Allies and other experts have offered you a way out of this PR nightmare early on. They offered to help — all of the organizations I know have (to date) been ignored. What’s up with that?

Loews: We talked with and met with members of the local feral cat group several times to seek their assistance in the re-location, but they felt they could not support this change. For more than two months, we sought input from the public on a solution for re-locating the feral cats. No viable option for re-location emerged, after weeks of diligent outreach. The only option offered was to keep the cats. Our assessment had determined that they must be re-located, in order to make the health and safety of our guests and team members a priority.

My comment:
Since there can be no follow up conversation, I can’t inquire as to why your only option was to move the cats? Based on what you’ve noted in the press releases, the answer has something to do with health and safety of guests and employees. But you aren’t specific about what you mean by that. No doubt – it’s because you can’t be specific. For many of these questions, it seems you don’t have a reasonable reply.

S. D.: It seemed the program operated by employees was working — why the sudden change in attitude? Was it coincidence that this all occurred when new
management came on board?

Loews: Over time, the cats became more familiar with the property. They went into guest contact areas and created issues that we could not ignore in our
hotel environment.

My comment: This is a reasonable answer – but if I had the chance to follow up I’d tell you about my recent trip to Mexico, and with fewer resources, how the one resort we stayed at dealt fine with feral cats, and other wildlife. You persistently cite Florida law is on your side. Well, one nearby Sheraton brought in experts, not only to TNR cats but to create feeding stations. The feeding stations were gradually moved away from guests to areas where guests don’t go. It’s as simple as that. Being reclusive in nature, even cats accustomed to handouts were happy to move away from human activity.

S.D.: I am very familiar with potential health risks and Florida law — truly, tell me — what’s the problem with the cat’s being there?

Loews: The Florida Department of Health states that feral, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease. You may access their position statement on this issue here. Page vii (near the bottom) and continuing on page viii.

My comment: You are right, I can’t explain the extreme stance taken in this document.

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Cats · Lifestyle